Whether you prefer to call them fitness trackers, activity trackers, fitness bands, or perhaps smart bands, these poor men’s smartwatches are spreading like wildfire. According to the International Data Corporation, three of the four wearable industry-leading manufacturers in Q3 2015 were specialized in such basic, low-cost gadgets, with Fitbits somehow managing even to beat the trendy Apple Watch. In 2020 and beyond, the number of manufacturers specialized in these has increased exponentially.
It’s practically impossible to predict the long-term evolution of a market so far from maturity. Still, at least for the foreseeable future, some folks will want to spend chump change on minimalist devices capable of reliably monitoring their active life and little else. The bottom line is that you need to choose between the following.
Our first recommendation is obviously the most rudimentary gizmo of the bunch. Some remarkable features come with the Mi Band 3, week-long battery life, step counter, and calories burned indicator, automatic sleep monitor, vibrations for call alerts, and IP67 water resistance. It comes with upgraded health features for all-day health management, giving you a more accurate pedometer, heart rate monitor, sleep quality monitoring, and even a sedentary reminder.
It has a handful of calling features as well, allowing you to reject calls straight from the tracker. Additionally, it can show you who’s calling without taking out your phone, too.
Compatible with both Android and iOS, much like all its rivals indexed today, the Shine 2 is an excellent choice, featuring a winning sporty design, up to 6 months (!!!) autonomy, and up to 30 meter water protection. The battery is actually replaceable, giving you another six months of battery life every time you replace it.
It’s perfect for running, walking, cycling, as well as playing tennis, basketball, or soccer, and it can be worn anywhere, from your wrist to the waist, sleeve, pocket, shoe, socks, lapel, shirt, or key chain with a convenient clip-on mechanism. Okay, maybe “perfect” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s decent and super-affordable.
If you can afford it, definitely buy the model with a built-in heart rate monitor. It’s a literal life-saver for people who may look to push themselves too far.
Compared to the Vivoactive 3, the Charge isn’t quite a battery powerhouse, lasting however north of a week before requiring extra juice, which is an unattainable feat for the likes of the Apple Watch. “Real progress in real time” is one of the activity tracker’s central claims to fame, alongside wirelessly stat synching across 120+ “leading smartphones” and your PC.
This one is sure an odd duck, not just because of its fancy name, but first and foremost as it touts a “timeless look” and yet focuses on the wearable basics rather than putting a smartphone on your wrist. It’s by far the world’s most fashionable fitness tracker, in a retro, always in vogue way, but amazingly keeps the lights on for more than eight months without needing a recharge or cell swap.
That’s obviously due to the screen not really being a power-hogging screen and showing anything else besides the time and an “analog feedback loop.” Quite the ingenious hybrid construction, and best of all, you don’t have to worry if you leave it on while swimming. And there’s a heart rate monitor to boot.
When it comes to dependable bands capable of a little more than counting steps, the Alta HR is your guy. The Alta HR builds on the success of Fitbit’s past fitness trackers going for a low-profile design path, and an abundance of useful sensors meant to capture both your Resting Heart Rate and Passive Heart Rate for a holistic view of your heart.
Marketing mumbo-jumbo aside, this stands out with tailor-made workouts and custom Smart Coach guidance, as well as “advanced” automatic sleep auditing with detection of REM, Light, and Deep stages.
Another smartwatch lookalike, this time copying the first wave of Android Wear devices, the rectangular Vivoactive is GPS-enabled, and that says it all. Why is GPS important for sports nuts? Because the wearable piece knows at all times exactly where you are and what you do, even when away from your Android phone, showing you precious, detailed data like speed and cadence during an indoor run.
Garmin’s always stellar proprietary software also helps distinguish between run, bike, swim, walk, and golf efforts, providing you with one of the most in-depth looks at your health money can buy. Oh, and even with the GPS continuously on, the Vivoactive lasts up to ten hours on a charge. 3 weeks when the feature is turned off.
The “fitness super watch” is not a smartwatch per se either, looking, well, kind of ugly and cumbersome, though it’s not very heavy, at 80 grams or so. Superficial fashion characteristics aside, what’s truly relevant is the Surge packs GPS, a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, digital compass, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, and vibration motor.
Translation – it knows exactly what you’re up to, where and to what end, and it’s pretty decent for call and text notification displaying purposes too. It’s essentially the best of both worlds, and yes, it offers week-long battery stamina.
It feels odd to wrap up a roundup of Google-friendly devices with one produced by the “enemy,” but if Redmond forgot about petty arguments, why wouldn’t we follow suit? Especially given the Band 2 embraces Windows Phone, Android and iOS, significantly refining the clumsy build of its forefather, and further enriching the sensor slate.
Believe it or not, you can do better than the Fitbit Surge, with accelerometer and gyro, GPS and a barometer, ambient light, and skin temperature, plus galvanic skin response, UV, a capacitive sensor, microphone, and haptic vibration motor. Have no idea what half of those do? Cool things, we assure you, equaling fit with fun.
As you can see, there are a lot of excellent low-cost fitness trackers. If you’re just after tracking your activities, any one of these will help you accomplish the means that you’re after; however, if you are vying for something premium and timeless, there are a few that rise to the top. For one, we love the Microsoft Band, but the Withings Steel HR and Garmin Vivoactice 3 are difficult ones to beat.
What fitness activity tracker are you planning on picking up? Do you have a favorite that we didn’t cover here today? Let us know what it is, and you might find your suggestions on our list at a later time!